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Union flag which flew for decades in Magherafelt has been taken down

The roundabout in Magherafelt where the Union flag had previously flown. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

A Union flag which flew all year round in a majority-nationalist town has been taken down.

It is understood the flag, which was a fixture in the centre of Magherafelt for decades, was removed earlier this week as part of a 'public realm' scheme underway in the south Derry town.

In the past mystery surrounded who was responsible for the flag, which flew from a pole in a flowerbed in the town's main traffic junction.

However, the Orange Order recently claimed it erected a flagpole in the Diamond area of Magherafelt 65 years ago.

Work has been taking place in the town as part of a £1.9m revamp which includes re-paving footpaths and landscaping main streets.

An official from Mid Ulster District Council, which is overseeing the project, has confirmed the "design does not include a flagpole".

When asked about the removal of the flag last night, the Orange Order declined to comment.

However, it previously said that members "are entitled to feel outraged that a publicly-funded refurbishment of the town centre could result in the removal of the Union flag".

"This is felt as deeply offensive to our tradition and the ethos of one of the largest community organisations within the Mid-Ulster council area," a spokesman said.

Earlier this year the Irish News revealed that council officials had met with members of the order to discuss a new location for the flag.

A council document revealed that Orangemen were keen to explore options for relocating the flagpole "other than outside of their own lodge",

There was also controversy after it emerged that the Royal British Legion had applied to build a memorial for those who died in both world wars in the town.

Weeks later the Co Derry and Antrim Republican Graves Association revealed plans to place a life-size statue of Easter Rising leader Padraig Pearse reading from the 1916 proclamation just yards away.

Planning authorities have yet to make a decision on either proposal.

Sinn Fein councillor Sean McPeake said town centre regeneration proposals "have since 2011 been the subject of lengthy statutory public consultation processes and have received widespread business and community support".

"The concept of the town centre works was to modernise the shopping heart of the town, make the town centre more appealing and accessible to everyone and to create a greater sense of `shared space'.

"The works currently undertaken by council are fully in line with this and completion of the works eagerly awaited upon."

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